Interview With a Board Certified Specialist

Pamela Steadman-Wood, PhD, ABPP


Q. Why did you become Interested in making a career working with older adults?
During my undergraduate and graduate training, I developed an interest in helping individuals and families manage chronic illness.  Various health psychology and neuropsychology practicums provided me with opportunities to work with older adults. As I became aware of the unique issues related to aging, including barriers to mental health treatment and the value of interdisciplinary approaches to care, I realized that all of the aspects of psychology I was most passionate about were prominent in this population. I then, pursued geropsychology internship and fellowship training programs to hone my skills working with older adults.

Q. Where do you practice?
I am a staff psychologist for a home-based primary care (HBPC) program at the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island. I am also an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Q. What kind of work do you do?
My work is multifaceted comprised of clinical, administrative, leadership and teaching responsibilities. I work on an integrated, interprofessional primary care team that provides home-based services to older adults with complex medical and psychiatric conditions that have not been managed effectively with routine clinic-based care.

Our psychology services include direct patient care and consultation. Direct services include assessment (Psychodiagnostic, cognitive and decision-making capacity evaluations), intervention (brief evidence-based psychotherapy, behavioral medicine, dementia care management and palliative care). Consultation is provided both formally and informally to the team and other referring providers. I am the mental health team leader for the HBPC team. In this capacity, I developed the behavioral health care integration and  am involved in various program evaluation and enhancement projects.

In addition to my clinical and administrative roles, I am involved in psychology internship/fellowship training in the Brown University Psychology Training Consortium. In this role, I have created geropsychology training opportunities within the Behavioral Medicine and Neuropsychology tracks. I am also involved in developing mentoring programs for early career HBPC psychologists, nationally.

Lastly, I hold leadership roles on several VA committees focused on enhancing geriatric mental health care policies and procedures in the VA system, locally and nationally.

Q. Why did you decide to become board certified in geropsychology?
I have always prided myself in striving to the highest standard in all of my personal and professional endeavors. Therefore, I believed that pursuing board certification in Geropsychology was the next step in my professional development trajectory.  Likewise, I felt strongly that board certification is a way to protect the public and ensure provision of high quality geropsychology services to an ever growing, underserved and diverse population.   I viewed the process of pursing board certification as an opportunity to enhance my awareness, knowledge and skills though the in-depth analysis and study.

Q. Did the process of applying for the ABPP promote any changes in your professional behavior?
Yes. It certainly did. The process of pursuing ABPP provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my areas of strength and weakness. In identified areas of relative weakness (e.g., third party reimbursement issues that I don’t generally have to contend with working as a government employee), I made a concerted effort to improve my familiarity with those issues.  

Q. Were there aspects of the ABGERO process that you found more difficult?
My experience overall was challenging, in a welcomed way. The most challenging aspect for me was the Ethics oral exam. I found it difficult because some aspects of the exam were unrelated to my actual practice. This required me to contemplate the ethical principles/standards in unfamiliar ways. Ultimately, I believe the exercise enhanced my understanding of ethical issues, standards and potential resolutions.

Q. Do you have any advice for those people considering applying to become a specialist in working with older adults?
For those considering ABGERO, I would highly recommend completing the self-assessment using the Pikes Peaks Geropsychology Knowledge and Skill Assessment Tool to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. It is a very comprehensive and user-friendly tool to guide the Professional Self Study section of the exam as well as highlight areas for further in-depth study.